A Chronicle of the New England Renaissance Conference, part 3

by Christopher Carlsmith, Meghan Chapman, and Derek Winslow

Rev. 8/22/13

[return to part 2: 1959-1969]


The 1970 conference was held on October 3rd and 4th at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Although previous conferences had united individual sessions under a common theme, the entire 1970 conference followed the theme “The Meaning of Mannerism.” The first day opened with a paper from Thomas M. Greene of Yale, entitled “Imagery and Consciousness in Sceve’s Delie.” His colleague Claude Palisca then presented his paper, “Musical Mannerism and the Rhetorical Figures.” This was followed by Samuel Edgerton from Boston University (the next president of NERC), who spoke about “Maniera and the Mannaia: Decorum and Decapitation in the Sixteenth Century.”  The first day of the conference concluded with cocktails and dinner. The second day of the conference began with a concert by I Dilettanti of Harvard, performing “Late Sixteenth Century Madrigals from the Este and Gonzaga Courts.” The presentation of papers did not begin until the early afternoon. The first paper mixed new and old technologies:  Dartmouth’s Ray Nash on “Introduction to a Film, The Making of a Renaissance Book,” followed by “The Mannered and the Mannerist in Late Renaissance Literature” by James V. Mirollo from Columbia. The final paper was by Henri Zerner of Brown, entitled “Some Observations on the Use of the Concept of Mannerism.” The conference ended with sherry and the viewing of rare books from the Dartmouth College Collection.


NERC was held at Wheaton College in October. Although there is a newsletter from Wheaton mentioning that NERC was held at Wheaton, there is no available program for this year.


The 1972 conference was held at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in October. There is no available program for this year.


In 1973 NERC was held, for the first time, at Southeastern Massachusetts University on October 19th and 20th. This continued to show the expanding boundaries of the conference’s inclusiveness. Attendees of this conference were mailed a letter that invited them to that year’s NERC, explained accommodations, transportation, and parking, and encouraged conference participants to tour the campus.  The letter also urged members of NERC to let their friends or those interested in the Renaissance know about NERC so the mailing list could be updated. The conference began early in the afternoon on the 19th, with Guy Fitch Lytle from Catholic University of America who presented “Pragmatists and Humanists in Early Renaissance England: the Culture of New College, Oxford.” This was followed by Myron P. Gilmore from Harvard (the previous president of NERC), and his paper entitled, “Erasmus on Images and the Council of Trent.” After Gilmore, Jane Ruby from Wheaton (another future president of NERC), presented her paper called, “From Roger Bacon to Newton: A Reconsideration of the Origins of the Use of the Term ‘Law’ in Science.” The final paper of the day was “Policy and Providence in the Tudor ‘Commonwealth’” given by Paul A. Fideler from Lesley College. The first day of the conference concluded with cocktails, a buffet dinner and “Music For a While,” which consisted of Renaissance music performed by the ensemble at Regis College. The second day of the conference began in the morning. Duncan Smith (Brown) presented “Emergence of the Villain in the Drama of 16th Century Germany,” Ronald Witt (Duke) presented “Coluccio Salutati and the stilus rhetoricus,” and Winfried Schleiner (University of California at Davis) gave a paper on “Pius Aeneas and Creusa: Prolegomena to a Study of the Family in Renaissance Literature.” The conference concluded with a luncheon at the Student Union.


The University of New Hampshire in Durham hosted NERC on October 25th and 26th, 1974.  Session I focused primarily on manuscript culture; the keynote address was given by Paul Oskar Kristeller (Columbia) entitled “Manuscript Research and Renaissance Thought.” The two other papers in this first session were by Charmarie Jenkins Blaisdell (Northeastern) titled “Renee de France: Whose Heroine?” and Joshua Rifkin (Brandeis) about “New Light on Musical Manuscripts at the Court of Ferrara, c. 1520-1560.” The first day of the conference ended with a cocktail party, dinner, and a program of Renaissance music directed by the same Joshua Rifkin. There was also an exhibit on “The Book as a Motif in Renaissance Art” in the University Galleries throughout the conference. Following early morning coffee, the second day of the conference opened with Session II, moderated by Shirley A. Zavin from the University of New Hampshire. Three papers were given during this session: “Death and the Poet in Emblem and Text” by Laura G. Durand (Brown), “Jacopo della Quercia’s Ilaria della Carretto Tomb in Lucca” by James H. Beck (Columbia), and “The Publishing History of St. Thomas’ Commentaries on Aristotle” by F. Edward Cranz (Connecticut College). In the afternoon William B. Hunter, Jr. (Univ. of Houston) moderated a session to commemorate the 300th anniversary of John Milton. These papers included “Paradise Lost: ‘The Pastoral Configuration’ and Metaphysical Poetry” by A.R. Cririllo (Northwestern), “Milton and the Art of Landscape” by G. Stanley Koehler (UMass), “Milton’s Androgynous Muse” by Virginia R. Mollenkott, and concluded with “Milton and the Mysteries of Time” by Mother M. Christopher Peheux.


The 1975 conference was held at Boston University for the first in time on October 24th and 25th, beginning with a welcoming address by President John Silber. The opening session had a long title but a familiar focus: “New Documents, New Psycho-Social, and Geographical Theories – but the Same Old Question: What was the Renaissance?” The moderator of this first session was Myron Gilmore (Harvard) and the panelists were Anthony Molho (Brown), Richard Trexler (University of Illinois), and Rudi Lindner (Tufts). After the panel there was a cocktail party, followed by dinner and a lecture-concert by Murray Lefkowitz and the Boston University Collegium Musicum in Early Music. They performed “Jan van Okeghem’s Missa Prolationum; An Early Renaissance Masterwork.” The Saturday session began in the morning with “a Salute to the 500th Anniversaries of Michelangelo Buonarotti and Sebastiano Serlio” at the Isabella Gardener Museum. The morning papers were given by James S. Ackerman (Harvard) and George L. Hersey (Yale) on these two artists and their works; in the afternoon Robert W. Henning (Columbia) and Donald Stone, Jr. (Harvard) spoke on the topic of  “The Renaissance Author In the Context of His Time.” .


NERC traveled far to the north for a first-time visit to the University of Vermont in Burlington on October 15th and 16th. Welcoming remarks were given by Lattie F. Coor, the President of the University. The opening session covered much of Europe, with Marvin Becker’s paper on “Death in Florence and Love, Too” followed by  “Montaigne’s Doctrine of Human Nature” from T. Anthony Perry (University of Connecticut), and finally Bridget Gellert Lyons (Rutgers) on “Shakespearean Iconography.” Cocktails and dinner were served after this session which was followed by “Court Dances and Music of the Renaissance” performed by the Cambridge Court Dancers and Players. The second day included “Renaissance Reporting: Form, Language, and Event” by Paula Johnson (Yale) and “Machiavelli’s Contribution to Renaissance Historiography” by Donald J. Wilcox (University of New Hampshire). The final paper by Glenn M. Andres (Middlebury), was titled, “Nanni di Baccio Bigio: Undoing Vasari’s Curse.” The conference was concluded by slightly less academic afternoon activities which consisted of a showing of the movie “The Making of a Renaissance Book” and a dance workshop by the Cambridge Court Dancers.


In 1977, NERC was held at the University of Rhode Island in Providence on October 28th and 29th. Following the usual introductory remarks from the University President and the NERC President, conference organizer Ronald M. Steinberg chaired the opening session on “Historiography and the Renaissance”, with remarks by  James A. Epperson (Dartmouth), Linda G. Janik (Wellesley), and David J. Cast (Yale). After coffee, Session II on ”The Family and the Renaissance” began. Renee Watkins (UMass Boston), Kirby Farrell (UMass Amherst), and Joel T. Rosenthal (State University of New York) all presented papers. This session was followed by cocktails, dinner, and a concert of Renaissance Vocal and Instrumental Music by the University of Vermont Baroque Ensemble. The second day of the conference featured a session titled “The City and the Renaissance.” Ruth P. Liebowitz (Pepperell, MA), Sheila ffolliott (University of Maryland), Joseph Tempesta (Ithaca), and Dorothy F. Donnelly (University of Rhode Island) all presented papers in this final panel that brought the conference to a close.


The 1978 conference was held at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA on October 27th and 28th. Looking closely at the titles of the papers presented it appears as though the theme for this NERC is the power of literature and the printed word during the Renaissance. The first session began in the early afternoon and was chaired by John Pinto of Smith College. The three papers presented were “Michelangelo’s Sonnets of the Night: The Hidden Meaning” by Margherita Frankel (New York University), “Marsilio Ficino’s Cosmic Temple” by George Hersey (Yale), and “Daniele Barbaro and the Iconography of the Venetian Republic” by Inge Jackson (Columbia). This session was followed by the Macri-Weil Sicilian Puppet Theatre, which received rave reviews from the audience. The conference dinner was followed, on a more serious note, by a lecture from Robert Hollander (Princeton) titled “Dante’s Misreading of His Auctores in Inferno XX.”  The second day of the conference, chaired by Ann Jones (Smith), included Hope Glidden (Wesleyan) and Barry Lydgate (Wellesley) on Renaissance French authors and the printed word. The final session, with Nancy Vickers (Dartmouth) and Robert Simon (Met Museum of Art) looked at how Dante was remembered in print and in paint in subsequent centuries.. The Mt. Holyoke art museum was also open the entire duration of the conference where illustrated pieces from the Valentine Giamatti Dante Collection were on display, including a gallery talk by Prof. Giamatti.


NERC was held at Smith College in October of 1979. However, there is no conference program available for this year.


NERC was hosted at Williams College in Williamstown, MA on October 17th and 18th 1980. Organized by Francis Oakley, the theme of the conference was “Popes, Emperors, Courts, and Kings.” It represented the first time in a decade that the NERC featured a conference-wide theme. The Friday afternoon session on “Empire, Papacy, France” included papers by John Headley (University of North Carolina), John O’Malley (Weston School of Theology), and Ralph Giesey (University of Iowa. After dinner there was a performance by St. John’s Episcopal Church called “Music at the royal, imperial, and papal courts: A harpsichord recital.” . The Saturday morning session, with papers by Stephen Orgel (Johns Hopkins) and Carol Westfall (University of Illinois) continued the imperial theme with examples from England and Italy. The conference program suggests that exhibitions on the theme of royal and papal imperialism were organized by the Chapin Library, the Clark Art Institute, and the Williams College Museum of Art.


1981 marked the 42nd New England Renaissance Conference which was held at Boston University on October 23rd and 24th. The program is exceptionally handsome and well-designed.  The opening papers balanced sacred and secular topics: D.P. Walker (Warburg Institute) spoke about “The Protestant Doctrine of the Cessation of Miracles”, followed by “Aristotelian Influence on Galileo’s Writings” by William Wallace, O.P. (Catholic University). Evening entertainment was provided by  cocktails, dinner, and a concert by the Boston University Collegium in Early Music, directed by Murray Lefkowitz. Members of the conference were also invited to view an exhibition of early Renaissance illuminated manuscripts on display at the Mugar Memorial Library. The second day of the conference moved toward the history of science, with papers from Owen Gingerich (Harvard) on Copernicus, Katherine Park (Wellesley) on “Renaissance Psychology”, and Samuel Edgerton (Williams) on the transformation of the anatomical treatise in the Renaissance.


The 1982 conference was held at the University of Rhode Island at Kingston on October 15th and 16th. It celebrated the quadricentennial of the death of Santa Teresa of Avila, and thus focused primarily upon Hispanic topics. A. David Kossoff (Brown) gave a paper titled “Renaissance, Mannerists, Baroque: Paradigms for Spanish Literature” and Augusta Espantoso Foley (Penn) presented “The Spanish Illuminati Under the Shadow of the Inquisition.” After the papers the conference members had the choice of taking a stroll across the campus or attending a liturgy for the Feast of Santa Teresa in Spanish with readings in English. These activities were followed with the usual cocktails and dinner. After dinner there was a slide show entitled “Santa Teresa de Jesus and Spanish Popular Piety” by Lewis J. Hutton (University of Rhode Island). The following morning John K. Yost (University of Nebraska) and Elissa Barbara Weaver (University of Chicago) presented their papers before lunch. After the meal O.B. Hardison, Jr. (The Folger Shakespeare Library), and Kenneth Muir (University of Liverpool) presented their papers.


Though there was not a conference held in 1983 this year did mark a change for NERC. It saw the end of the presidency of David Berkowitz and the ascension of NERC’s first female coordinator, Jane Ruby of Wheaton College.


In 1984, the conference was held at Wellesley College on April 6th and 7th, with a decided focus upon Italian culture. The first session, titled “Italy After Trent: Society and Culture in the Late Renaissance” included “Death, Women, and Property in Siena” by Samuel K. Cohn, Jr. (Brandeis), “A Distressing Incident: Choirboys, Canons, and Homosexuality in Loreto” by Richard Sherr (Smith), and “The Play of Intellect: the Discorsi of Annibale Romei” by Werner L. Gundersheimer (Penn). Drinks and dinner were served after the session and a demonstration-concert displaying Wellesley’s Late-Renaissance organ was held. The second session, on Saturday morning, looked carefully at music in a comparative vein, with a panel titled “Esthetics and Institutions: Music and Musical Life in Italy and the Netherlands”. Keith Polk (University of New Hampshire), Reinhard Strohm (Yale), and Jane Bernstein (Tufts) all presented papers. There was then a break before the third session began which was called “Early Sixteenth Century Art in Venice and Padua.” Wendy Stedman Sheard (Boston University) and Sarah Wilk (Rutgers University) were the panelists. The conference ended with a lunch.

For the first time in its history, NERC had two conferences in the same year. The reason was simply to make up for the missed conference in 1983 owing to the death of longtime president David Berkowitz. New NERC President Jane Ruby agreed to host the second conference of the year at her home institutions of Wheaton College in Norton, MA. in early November. There was insufficient time to organize a themed conference. The Friday afternoon session opened with presentations of “Senecan and Virgilian Perspectives on Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy” by Eugene D. Hill (Mount Holyoake) and “John Skelton: The Priest as a Poet” by Arthur F. Kinney (UMass Amherst). As usual this first session was followed by cocktails, dinner, and a concert which featured English Renaissance music by the Consortium Reginae. The second day of the conference included a paper by long-time NERC member F. Edward Cranz (Connecticut College) on “Some Petrarchan Paradoxes”, Karen Newman (Brown) on “The Politics of Spectacle: Bargagli’s Pelligrina and the Intermezzi of 1589, and finally comments by Paul Oskar Kristeller (Columbia) on University curricula in the Renaissance.


In 1985 NERC was hosted by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. However, there is no available program for this year.


In 1986 Samuel Edgerton assumed the presidency of NERC, and immediately hosted the conference at his home institution of Williams College. Although no conference program is extant, we know from a mailing that Edgerton sent to the NERC membership in advance of the conference that he wished to alter the format quite substantially. Edgerton described his plans in this way:  “Two invited speakers with opposing opinions are planned for each ‘controversy.’ They are not necessarily to confront one another in adversary debate, however. Rather, the speakers will each present his or her side of the argument for about a half-hour to forty-five minutes. Then, the moderator of each session will invite NERC members in the audience to ask questions of the speakers and carry on their own discussion among themselves. In other words, NERC members should come to the 1986 meeting not just to hear lectures, but prepared to participate in three separate open forums.”  Edgerton chose three “controversies” familiar to all Renaissance scholars: : the first was the dispute between artists and art historians concerning the on-going cleaning of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes in Rome; the second was whether or not the differing texts in the Quarto and Folio editions of King Lear revealed something new about Shakespeare’s working methods; and the third considered the relative merits of ‘micro-‘ and ‘macro-history’ as currently practiced by Renaissance historians in light of recent interest in critical theory and ‘methodology’


The conference was held at Connecticut College in 1987.  No conference program and no extant sources are available for this year.


1989 was the 50th anniversary of the New England Renaissance conference. This spring conference was held at Harvard which was one of NERC’s three keystone institutions and represented a remembrance of the conference’s early Ivy League roots. This NERC was also held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the larger, national Renaissance Society of America, and thus brought in many more scholars, and from a much further distance, than had been the norm in years past. Parallel exhibitions at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts complemented the conference. In order to accommodate the larger attendance, this NERC was held over three days, March 30 – April 1. After the usual opening remarks, Edward Cranz (Connecticut College) reviewed the early history of NERC itself, beginning with Leicester Bradner and briefly describing the tenures of Myron Gilmore, David Berkowitz, Jane Ruby, and Samuel Edgerton. Cranz spoke about how despite the conference’s lack of concrete structure, it had survived throughout the years as a result of the passion (and volunteerism!) of those interested in the study of the Renaissance.. The day ended with a round table discussion centered on “Is the Renaissance Still what it used to be?” Anthony Molho (Brown) was the chair while Hilton Kramer, the editor of the New Criterion, Rona Goffen (Rutgers), Natalie Zemon Davis (Princeton), and Paola Zambelli (University of Florence, Italy) were panelists.

The academic heart of the conference occurred over the next two days, with six parallel sessions repeated during the course of the day. Limitations of space preclude listing all of the session titles, but as one would expect there were a range of topics in history, literature, music, art history, and more. ” The  first day ended with a banquet and the annual Bennett lecture by Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt from New York University titled “Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling: Discoveries and Interpretations.” The second day again included multiple parallel sessions, and concluded with an evening reception, concert, and tour at the Gardner Museum.

1989 was the second year that saw two appearances of NERC. The second iteration was held in the fall of 1989 at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. This program included the registration form for the conference attendees, parking and accommodation information, as well as directions. The conference began later on Friday afternoon with welcoming remarks by William Chace, the president of the University. The first session began right after with papers from Peter Stallybrass (University of Pennsylvania) on “The World Turned Upside Down” and Jonathan Goldberg (John Hopkins) with “Table Manners: Engrossing Shakespearian Histories.” A reception with cocktails was held which led the members of the conference into a banquet before the evening speaker, Anthony Grafton (Princeton) presented “Cardano’s Cosmos: The Three Worlds of a Renaissance Magician.” The second day of the conference began with the usual coffee and doughnuts after which session two began. The chair person was John T. Paoletti, the next president of NERC and an art history professor at Wesleyan. The two panelists were Ann Rosalind Jones (Smith) and Margaret Carroll (Wellesley). Afternoon actives consisted of special exhibitions that contained Renaissance books. Other exhibitions contained drawings, watercolors, prints, photographs, paintings, and sculptures.

[to part 4: 1990-2012]

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